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Jun '08

Nostalgic Summertime Sweets: Salt Water Taffy Celebrates 125th Year Anniversary

It won’t be long before the official start of summer; the season of buttered corn, barbecue, lemonade, and chilled, sweet tea. If you grew up not too far from the coast or from an amusement park, there’s also a good chance that you have happy memories of eating salt water taffy on vacation.

Also known as pull candy, basic saltwater taffy usually is made of a combination of sugar, corn syrup, water, and some kind of flavoring. Oddly enough, there’s no saltwater in the taffy itself, although some recent recipes do include a little salt.

According to Wikipedia’s Page about the origins of saltwater taffy which they trace to the boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey:

“The most popular story, although probably apocryphal, concerns a candy-store owner, Mr. David Bradley, whose shop was flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy was soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water. When a young girl asked if he had any taffy for sale, he is said to have sarcastically offered her some ’salt water taffy.’ The girl was delighted, she bought the candy and proudly walked down to the beach to show her friends. Mr. Bradley’s mother was in the back and heard the exchange. She loved the name and so Salt Water Taffy was born.”

A year later, former glassblower and fish monger James Fralinger started selling salt water taffy in his Atlantic City store. Eventually he came up with the idea to sell salt water taffy as a souvenir by packing it in the same one pound oyster boxes he had used during his fish merchant days. This idea was so successful that the company still sells one pound boxes of the taffy, nearly 125 years later.

Commercial salt water taffy is now most often made by machine, but originally was entirely handmade.

According to the folks at Shriver’s in Ocean City, NJ:

“To pull the taffy one would use a large hook. The hooks would hold the taffy while the “puller” would stretch, twist and pull the taffy to the right consistency. Then, each piece would be cut to fit the paper and wrapped… all by hand. Today, the machines used can pull in excess of 100 pounds and wrap approx 300-400 pieces per minute.”

To get an appreciation of how much work used to be involved making this simple treat, About.Com: Candy has a great page which gives step-by-step instructions for pulling your own taffy.

Here’s a video that shows some of the process used today in making saltwater taffy commercially:

If you’re a fan of salt water taffy, you may also have grown up eating Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy when you weren’t able to get the salt water kind.

More of a nougat than a taffy, Bonomo’s hasn’t been available since 1989, but over at Slashfood, they compare Old Time Candy’s French Chew favorably with the vanished Bonomo “taffy”.

Here’s to simple summertime pleasures!

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